The decision has been taken to “recommend the preferential use on individuals aged above 60”, Franco Locatelli told reporters.
His announcement came hours after the EU’s medicines regulator said that blood clots should be listed as a rare side effect of the jab – but insisted the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.
Locatelli was speaking at a hastily convened news conference to explain the implications for Italy, one of several European countries that suspended the use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford jab last month but resumed using it after the EMA ruled it was safe.
The World Health Organization’s vaccine experts on Wednesday echoed EMA’s latest findings, saying a causal relationship between the vaccine and blood clots was “plausible but is not confirmed”.
Locatelli, who coordinates the panel of experts that advises the Italian government on coronavirus, said the data on blood clots only pointed to a link for people receiving the first dose.
Wednesday’s decision did not amount to an outright ban on the use of the AstraZeneca jab on younger people.
For example, Locatelli said there should be no problem for those under the age of 60 receiving their second and final dose of the vaccine.
Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands are among several countries that are not recommending the AstraZeneca shot for younger people.